Advancing research on early autism through an integrated risk and resilience perspective

Isabella C. Stallworthy, Ann S. Masten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


To date, a deficit-oriented approach dominates autism spectrum disorder (ASD) research, including studies of infant siblings of children with ASD at high risk (HR) for the disabilities associated with this disorder. Despite scientific advances regarding early ASD-related risk, there remains little systematic investigation of positive development, limiting the scope of research and quite possibly a deeper understanding of pathways toward and away from ASD-related impairments. In this paper, we argue that integrating a resilience framework into early ASD research has the potential to enhance knowledge on prodromal course, phenotypic heterogeneity, and developmental processes of risk and adaptation. We delineate a developmental systems resilience framework with particular reference to HR infants. To illustrate the utility of a resilience perspective, we consider the female protective effect and other evidence of adaptation in the face of ASD-related risk. We suggest that a resilience framework invites focal questions about the nature, timing, levels, interactions, and mechanisms by which positive adaptation occurs in relation to risk and developmental pathways toward and away from ASD-related difficulties. We conclude with recommendations for future research, including more focus on adaptive development and multisystem processes, pathways away from disorder, and reconsideration of extant evidence within an integrated risk-and-resilience framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-61
Number of pages18
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 5 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Preparation of this paper was supported in part by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (Stallworthy; 00074041), as well as Regents and Irving B. Harris Professorships in Child Development from the University of Minnesota (Masten).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • ASD
  • HR infant siblings
  • adaptation
  • heterogeneity

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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